By Renata Menegaz
Passing by on the street in Abu Hamour, you’d never guess what happens behind one of its charming villas... “It’s our creative house, a place for local and creative designers, where talents of Qatar come together,” says Noor Al Sulaiti, one of the minds behind the Local Bazar.
Noor and five other ladies are permanently exhibiting their designs in this house, sharing the space with Yummy Delicious bakery and a home décor section that highlights local artisans. They not only organize everything by themselves, with no help or support, but some of them also live there, and when they’re all together they cook, eat, bring their kids and have fun. Local Bazar also promotes bazaars for Ramadan, Eid, Qatar National Day and other occasions such as back-to-school, or summer vacation. And lately, they’ve played host to the launch of new abaya collections by resident and guest designers, with the last exhibition held at the beginning of this month.
(Photo credit: Noor Al Sulaiti, Modish)
The look – a la Modish
Despite her youthful appearance, Noor is a Mom, who started working for pleasure as an abaya designer four years ago with her own brand, Modish. She develops two abaya collections per year – spring/summer, and fall/winter –as well as a limited collection for Eid and Ramadan, which includes casual-wear and abayas, and a resort collection for Qatar National Day.
Her inspiration comes from art, paintings, drawings, shapes, and geometric form with careful details – like the new collection, launched at the last bazaar. “In this collection I used very structured lines, a strong Japanese fabric, with details on only one shoulder, one hand, or one side, and also made reversible pieces,” she explains.
“Modish is for young and contemporary women, who want to feel powerful, stylish, be on-trend, and sophisticated at the same time” she adds. “Qatari ladies are updated in fashion and abaya styles. Among the Gulf region, the Qatari abaya is on top, and Qatar was a kind of pioneer in developing different abayas.”
“Arabic women like everything that’s new, special, limited, and exclusive – and they look for very special things. If my consumers wear my abaya, everyone will know that it’s mine, and they like it, because it’s not a regular abaya that they can buy just anywhere.” Her special collection for Ramadan 2017 is based on silk, and has 13 pieces – last year’s collection had only 8 – including casual clothes and abayas.
As for the future of Arabic fashion? “I think it’s growing,” Noor says, full of enthusiasm. “People from around the world know my brand and my name. I mean, I’m from Qatar and they know me, I ship worldwide and it’s going good.”
(Photo credit: Fatma Ghanem, Fufi)
The art of the abaya
“It’s the abaya revolution”, says Fatma Ghanem, designer of brand Fufi, adding, “The abaya isn’t like it used to be before; in the past it was just plain black, and then slowly it started to have more details, and now the abaya is very trendy, even to me as a designer. I follow what’s on-trend for colours – the colors of the season – so I can put it on the abaya somehow and reflect it. So when a girl wears an abaya, you can see she’s a woman of fashion, she still has the respect of her religion, but at the same time she looks nice.”
Fatma also believes that social media has a huge impact on delivering this message. “Arabic fashion is growing and changing, because now we live in a technological world and everything is on Instagram and on social media. Besides, there are a lot of famous bloggers wearing abayas and turbans overseas – and they have a million followers.”
The Libyan designer, who started with her brand in Qatar in 2012, participated in the last showcase promoted by Local Bazar in cooperation with social media activist Fatima Al Thani, who is also her good friend, “She was the one who inspired me to display my collection with them, and I loved it,” she says with a smile. “It was my first time, and I liked how all the designers were there and there was no competition…the energy was very positive.”
However, she admits, she like taking part in charity bazaars the most, because you can have fun collecting for a good cause, and at the same time giving something back to the community. She also prefers to display her designs by taking over a section in a store – as she’s already done at Royal Plaza and Blue Salon. And, when she does, she announces it on Instagram and on her website –the same places women can find her pieces to buy. Her consumers are mostly from Qatar, the GCC and the U.K., but she also has non-Arabic clients and ships worldwide.
(Photo credit: Fatma Ghanem, Fufi)
Back at the villa, we talk about her new collection, launched at Local Bazar, “My inspiration was ballet; I got inspired by the pink and off-white colours, and I started to listen to ballet music just to get inspired,” she explains. “Normally, for each collection, I create a story behind it so people can feel it more when they wear it.” Fatma is also inspired by the works of designers such as Elie Saab and Heer Brad, “I feel I’m closer to the Arab designers, because they reflect somehow the culture I am coming from,” she expresses.
Fatma develops three collections per year –fall/winter, spring/summer, and a smaller cruise collection released in between. For Ramadan 2017 she’s preparing a collection with kaftans, “There’s a high demand this season for kaftans – which is a big moment especially for abaya designers,” she says. “I could say [Ramadan] is the main season of the whole year. During the day we’re fasting, and then at night we make good food, coffee, tea, and the girls are all together. Me and my friends do it every weekend [during Ramadan] at one of my friend’s houses and we like to wear nice kaftans and dresses – we do our hair…put on make-up – that’s why as a designer, I try to create something that’s covered, but fashionable.”
I ask her what kind of women wear Fufi designs, and she bats back confident: “She’s a modern woman between 20 and 40; she moves a lot, she works, she’s an active and busy woman – because my abayas are very comfy and you can wear them for different occasions.” And, she adds, “My consumers are looking for something very simple, but with good quality. I use good fabrics and different types of cuts – that’s my signature for this brand.”
“I see that in the abaya business there are a lot of designers, but the most important thing is the finishing of the abaya…the way it fits. Because some designers make very beautiful pieces, but the fabric has a bad quality and this is the way to lose your consumers,” she hints.
Fatma and Fufi designs will soon showcase her creations at the upcoming Iqlit public exhibition that will be held at Katara Halls from March 24-29, 2017.
If you want to know more about Local Bazar and what influential people from Qatar have to say about Arabic fashion, don’t miss In The Glow’s next feature, where we talk with owner and organizer of Local Bazar, Manar Alshraim, and digital influencer, Fatima Al Thani.
Local Bazar is open daily from 10:00 a.m. till 8:00 p.m. Find out more about it and its featured designers on Instagram here:
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